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THE LONE RANGER

Casting & Characters
Johnny Depp's interest in playing Tonto in "The Lone Ranger" developed early on when it was just germinating as an idea with Jerry Bruckheimer. Depp, in typical fashion, figured that the best way to get the ball rolling would be to get into character as Tonto. He enlisted the help of two close friends -- makeup artist Joel Harlow and photographer Peter Mountain -- and set about creating his distinctive version of how Tonto would look in the hope that it would convince Bruckheimer and the studio, Disney, to give it the green light.

Depp is, of course, a master of disguise and a brilliant character actor as well as one of Hollywood's best-loved leading men. He based his 'look' for Tonto on a painting he'd seen of a Native American warrior and added his own, unique, flourishes.

The result was spectacular and it convinced Bruckheimer -- and indeed Disney Studios -- that it was time for "The Lone Ranger" and Tonto to ride back onto the screen. As producer Jerry Bruckheimer relates, "Johnny Depp creates amazing characters, no matter what movie he's in. His Tonto will be different than any Tonto you've ever seen before. He has a whole different look, a whole different feel. We don't even know until the cameras roll what he's going to do, but we know it's going to be entertaining and very interesting."

Depp had definite thoughts about how he wanted the character of Tonto to be portrayed. He remembers watching repeats of the TV show when he was a boy and promises that his Tonto will be an equal partner -- and certainly not a sidekick -- to the Lone Ranger and honor the noble, warrior tradition of his Native American heritage.

"'The Lone Ranger' was just one of those sort of regular things that you would see on television as a kid. I watched it and I always identified with Tonto," he says. "And even as a kid I wondered why the Indian was the sidekick.

"And it wasn't that 'The Lone Ranger' was overtly disrespectful in the way he treated Tonto but I just thought, 'Why is he the guy that has to go and do this and that? Why isn't he the hero?' So that was something that was always on my mind. And I was told at a very young age that we have some Indian blood in our family...who knows how much -- maybe very little, I don't know.

"So what I wanted to do was play this character not as the sidekick to the Lone Ranger. I wanted to play him as a warrior and as a man with great integrity and dignity. It's my small sliver of a contribution to try and right the wrongs that have been committed in the past."

With Johnny Depp already cast as Tonto, the filmmakers searched for the perfect John Reid aka The Lone Ranger. It soon became apparent to Jerry Bruckheimer and Gore Verbinski that the much sought-after role of the Lone Ranger was custom-built for a young, impossibly talented and equally good-looking actor named Armie Hammer. Having already made a notable mark in Hollywood with his performance as the Winklevoss twins in David Fincher's "The Social Network" and starring opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in Clint Eastwood's "J. Edgar," Bruckheimer and Verbinski snagged him for "The Lone Ranger" at just the right moment.

Describing Armie Hammer, director Verbinski says, "When you meet Armie, you soon realize that he doesn't have a cynical or jaded bone in his body. Armie has a great optimism in the way he looks at the world. We really needed someone you could believe would have old-fashioned ideas."

Johnny Depp, talking about his experience working with Hammer, says, "First and foremost, Armie is a great guy. He's very smart, very quick and clever with a great wit and he's super-talented. He committed to playing the Lone Ranger as an earnest, naïve, 'white man' -- and that's exactly right.

"Armie is a young actor coming up the ranks and he looks like a classic movie star and what's more, he has the chops to back it up," continues Depp. "So he fully committed to this role -- he played it perfectly, he got the humor, and he didn't want to play it as the 'cool guy' as it were. I found him a dream to work with and I feel like I've made a really good friend in Armie."

The other "Lone Ranger" cast members embody excellence. Tom Wilkinson, who portrays railroad and nation builder Latham Cole, is acknowledged as one of Britain's finest and most versatile actors, and is a two-time Academy Award nominee (for "In the Bedroom" and "Michael Clayton") and four-time Golden Globe nominee, winning for his performance as Benjamin Franklin in the HBO miniseries "John Adams." "Latham Cole is, in a certain sense, one of the fathers of America as it is today," explains Wilkinson about his character. "Today he would be called a venture capitalist. For Cole, building the Transcontinental Railroad isn't just an opportunity to make money, but also his vision for unified greatness. But Cole is not always over fastidious in how he achieves what he needs to achieve, but I guess that's always been the case. The people who have the big vision are not reluctant to tread on the legal rights of other people."

William Fichtner took on the role of outlaw Butch Cavendish, the Lone Ranger's archenemy and a character known to all fans of the legend. Through the years, Fichtner has developed a mighty reputation for his versatility and range. Unrecognizable in his makeup as Cavendish, Fichtner nonetheless found a core to the character that makes him more than just a monster. "Sometimes I play people rougher in nature, but I always try to find something to make them real. Cavendish is pretty simple in his thought process about what he wants, but he's smart and focused. I think it's safe to say that out of all the amazing characters that you'll see in this film, the last person you would want to find in a dark alley is Cavendish. I don't even think Cavendish would want to run into himself, let's put it that way."

Emmy Award winner Barry Pepper set his targets on the role of Captain Fuller. In researching the role, Pepper studied such famous "Indian fighters" of the late 19th century as George Armstrong Custer, Ranald S. Mackenzie and Philip Sheridan. "They were very ebullient, egocentric men, who spoke in vainglorious flourishes, with grander purposes in mind. You can almost hear the campaign speeches and slogans stirring in Fuller's mind. I saw him as this preening peacock swept up in the grotesque task of ridding the Indians from the plains, a Cavalier in the masquerade of progress."

The filmmakers' determination to marry the best possible talent to their specific roles paid off again with the selection of New York City -- born James Badge Dale to play Dan Reid, a Texas Ranger whose rough frontier nature is a striking contrast to that of his refined and highly educated brother, John. "Dan Reid is John's dirtier, more world-weary older brother," notes Dale of his character. "There are lots of shades of gray in Dan's worldview, and perhaps in another world and another time, he might have ended up on the outlaw side of things. Right and wrong don't seem to be that clear to him anymore."

British actress Ruth Wilson makes her American film debut in "The Lone Ranger." "When Ruth came in and read for the part, she just blew us away," says Verbinski. "She can act circles around most people, and she's really got it going in those eyes. She's going to be a huge movie star."

Comments Wilson, "Working on 'The Lone Ranger' has been epic in every sense of the word -- the scale of the production, the landscape, the quality of talent involved across the board. You'll see it's a Western that swings from absurd humor to deadly serious emotion and all set against a fascinating moment in American history. For me it was an opportunity I couldn't resist and an experience I shall never forget."

Helena Bonham Carter joined the cast as Red Harrington for a good reason: "The reason I wanted to do the film is because I've never actually been offered to play a peg-legged Southern madam in a Western," says the two- time Academy Award nominee. Another lure to the role might have been the opportunity to work once again with her friend Johnny Depp, with whom she's previously acted in five films. Bonham Carter describes the flamboyant, dramatically coiffed, and scrimshaw-legged Red as "the proprietor of an exotic establishment that is also mobile. Red follows the railroad as it's being built, because all her business is from the workers. She's a powerful, straight-talking pragmatist."

The huge supporting cast of "The Lone Ranger" were meticulously selected from several sectors of the American and international acting communities. Two distinguished actors were selected to portray Comanche warriors facing an uncertain future: Saginaw Grant, a greatly respected actor/educator/ activist from the Sac and Fox Nation (Iowa) and Otoe-Missouria Nation, portrays Chief Big Bear, still a great leader despite the advance of both his older years and the railroad into Comanche territory; and Gil Birmingham, himself a Comanche, plays Big Bear's war chief Red Knee.

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